Bhutan may get duty-free and quota-free market access for limestone powder export to Bangladesh, officials of the National Board of Revenue said.
They said that the revenue board might declare the decision of offering the facility to the Himalayan kingdom at the third Bangladesh-Bhutan joint group of customs meeting to be held in Thimphu of Bhutan.
The three-day meeting is set to begin tomorrow aiming at expanding bilateral trade between the two countries through easing border trade procedures and removing different barriers related to trade.
At the meeting, Bangladesh will request the Himalayan kingdom to increase its import particularly of pharmaceuticals, readymade garment, ceramics, jute and allied products, leather goods, toiletries and agricultural products from the country to narrow the existing large trade gap which is heavily in favour of Bhutan.
NBR member for customs modernisation and international trade Khondaker Aminur Rahman will lead the Bangladesh delegation, comprised of officials of revenue board, foreign and commerce ministries, at the meeting.
There will be a business conference to be jointly organised by Bangladesh embassy in Thimphu and Bhutan Chamber of Commerce Industry on November 7 on enhancing bilateral trade and investment between the two Asian countries.
NBR officials said that the revenue board last week sent a summery to finance minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith for allowing the duty-free market access for limestone powder export following repeated requests from the landlocked South Asian nation over the last one and half years.
The revenue board excluded the product from the duty exemption list in February last year saying that limestone and limestone powder are not the same product though the country has been enjoying the market access for limestone powder with the benefit given for the limestone.
Earlier in April this year, Bhutanese prime minister Tshering Tobgay requested Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina during her visit to the Himalayan country to offer the market access for limestone powder, a mineral used for producing poultry and fish feed, and in other industries like steel, plastic and cement.
Bangladesh is a major market for Bhutanese limestone powder.
According to the officials, the customs wing of the NBR would issue a gazette notification if Muhith approves the proposal.
Currently, Bhutan enjoys duty-free market access in Bangladesh for its 18 products under the bilateral arrangement while Bangladesh enjoys such facility for 90 products in export to the country.
At the meeting, both the parties will also discuss issues related to preferential trade agreement and finalisation of protocol related to transit agreement between the two countries to enhance bilateral trade and investment.
Bangladesh will also offer Bhutan for using more land customs stations, particularly Nakugaon LC station at Sherpur, for export and import purposes between the two countries.
The Bangladesh government wants to transform the Nakugaon-Dalu (Meghalaya, India) border area a trade hub for Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal.
The delegation will also request Bhutan to ensure proper marking on the goods and packages in case of export to Bangladesh for easy identification of goods.
Both the parties will also discuss possibility of holding regular meeting at the assistant commissioner level for speedy resolution of customs-related problems that arise during border trade.
Mohammad Ehteshamul Hoque, first secretary of customs modernisation and international trade, on Saturday told New Age that the JGC meeting would facilitate bilateral trade between the two countries through identifying and solving bottlenecks in customs procedures and border trade.
The proposed business conference will also play a vital role in increasing trade and investment between the two South Asian nations, he said.
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